Taste of Japan: Where to find delicious cherry blossom nosh, merchandise

Photo by Erica Earl
Photo by Erica Earl

Taste of Japan: Where to find delicious cherry blossom nosh, merchandise

by Erica Earl
Stars and Stripes

While we anticipate the forecast for the Sakura blooms this spring (predicted March 25 for first blooms and April 1 for peak blossom), the weather is not the only indicator that the cherry blossoms are on their way. For many foodies and lovers of the color pink, an ode-to-capitalism unofficial spring starts with the release of limited run specialty food, drinks and collectible items from both major corporations and small businesses.

I am in the camp of people who mark the spring season in Japan not only by the fleeting beauty of the flowers, but also the fleeting sales of specialty flavors and merchandise inspired by the blossoms.  I monitor my favorite shops and restaurants’ social media pages for new item drops, and I am usually first in line for limited seasonal releases.

While some of the companies who usually participate in offering seasonal items, like McDonalds and Cinnabon, haven’t yet released their 2022 menus, others have already started rolling their special items out.

 

 

Starbucks


Photo by Erica Earl

Perhaps the most highly anticipated Sakura release is from Starbucks. Along with a new iridescent-themed line of Sakura cups, mugs and bottles, the coffee giant added two new drinks, the Sakura Strawberry Shiratama Frappuccino and the Sakura Blooming Milk Latte.

The frappucino is one of my favorite specialty drink drops since the limited edition anniversary drinks last year. As the name suggests, the concoction is a blend of strawberry juice and cherry blossom powder, which gives the drink an almondy taste. The drink also has nama yatsuhashi, a glutinous rice flour common in Japanese desserts. The drink has one pink rice flour dumpling sitting on top and one mixed into the drink, creating a gummy texture in some of the sips. Boba fans will enjoy this drink.

The latte does not have the rice flour and instead is a milky mix of cherry blossom powder and a light drizzle of chocolate sauce and strawberry chocolate shavings. The chocolate syrup and shavings are used to create an intricate Sakura tree design. 

Starbucks brought back the Sakura chiffon cake and Sakura doughnut this year, although the flavors of both are very light. This year’s menu also features a Sakura and cranberry pound cake, which was my personal favorite of the three. The slices are small but dense and the dried cranberries added a pleasant balance of tartness.

The Sakura Blooming Milk Latte will be available until March 15, and the Sakura Strawberry Shiratama Frappuccino will be available until April 12. Act fast, as each location may sell out before then!

Disney


Photo by Disney

Tokyo Disneyland and Disney stores in Japan are known to Disney lovers globally for enviable limited releases that inspire many YouTube and TikTok videos about the exclusive products.

This year is no exception with a special release of Sakura-themed plushie toys, clothing and home décor items centered around classic characters like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Chip and Dale. The collection will be available in Disney stores across Japan, although reservations are required for the flagship store in Shinjuku.

  

Eggs n Things


Photo by Eggs n Things

The Hawaiian brunch chain is also offering some specialty spring items this Sakura season, and they aren’t all centered around the cherry blossoms.

Eggs n Things will add strawberry and condensed milk pancakes with custard and sweet and sour cream cheese to their menu, along with a vegan avocado burger. These items will be available March 1-31.

 

Nanas Green Tea


Photo by Nanas Green Tea

Nanas Green Tea, a parfait and confectionary shop popular both in Japan and America’s West Coast, is bringing back some of its limited-edition Sakura strawberry desserts.

The café chain, like Starbucks, is offering a Sakura Strawberry Shiratama latte with the chewy rice treat blended in, except their version also includes cherry bean paste and salted cherry blossoms.

The Sakura Strawberry Parfait is returning again this season. This layered treat includes strawberry ice cream, cherry cream, red bean paste and fresh strawberries.

 

Make sure to keep a lookout for other Sakura drops ranging from major fast-food chains to small tucked-away cafes, as it is one of the most popular times of the year in Japan for specialty items.

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